Books by Tea Benduhn

GRAVEL QUEEN by Tea Benduhn
Released: March 1, 2003

The summer before their junior year finds Aurin lolling in the park eyeballing the more active Frisbee players. Aurin and her best friends, Kenney and Fred, female and male, live in Greensboro, better known as Greensboring. Fred is gay and enjoys the view of the athletic guys as much or more than Kenney, but Aurin is surprised to find herself noticing newcomer Neila, female. Never having dated, Aurin hasn't really thought about her sexuality, and as she gets to know Neila, her growing awareness of her interest and the ramifications slowly unfold. Benduhn uses a light, deft touch that plays down the angst and focuses on the fizzy joy of first love. Kenney is a pivotal figure as befits her status as best friend, as well as her personality, which has always made her the leader/dictator of the pack. Aurin's parents, Fred's heartthrob Grant, and even a community ballroom-dancing teacher float into the narration but remain fairly vague, as does Neila, source of infatuation. Throughout, Benduhn punctuates the story with descriptions of scenes that Aurin imagines in the movie of her life. She eschews heaviness as she pays little attention to possible sources of confrontation. The non-hetero characters suffer no more than some friendly teasing, and Neila's African-American heritage is summarily observed and dismissed. Actual attempts at movie-making occur and bring a visual element to the story as a counterpoint to the events described. This is not quite "Seventeenth Summer" but it does contain similar elements of self-discovery and blossoming sexuality. Thus girl meets girl, sparks fly, and boredom is vanquished. Lighthearted fare such as this ought to be more available, but it isn't. Its very scarcity makes this noteworthy debut even more valuable. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >